Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 340 (and a reprise of Opus 339):
Opus 340 (May 30, 2015). With this hoppy posting, our 340th, we finish the 16th year of Rancid Raves. That’s right: we’ve been doing this for sixteen years without missing a beat. HOOrah! That probably makes us one of the longest-running websites on comics. In fact, if we add a few qualifiers—we are definitely the longest-running website of comics news and reviews, cartooning history and lore being operated by two cartoonists. Amazing what a few qualifiers can do for one’s ego. And the other cartoonist, our webmaster, Jeremy Lambros, and I are on the cusp of adding a new feature to the enterprise—about which, more when we get closer.
In the meantime, we celebrate this anniversary with an opus that rambles conversationally from one topic to another as we think of them. The longest ramble takes us through the thicket of issues prompted by Garry Trudeau’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders—whether freedom of expression should be limited by ordinary politeness to reduce or eliminate offensiveness. Cartoonists reaction to Trudeau’s remarks had barely died down when PEN revived the foofaraw by planning to give Charlie Hebdo an award for courage that some PEN members objected to, saying it would “valorize” offensive cartooning. Isn’t satire inherently offensive—to someone? What, then, of the future of satire? And before the award could be given, a Muslim hate group’s Draw Muhammad cartoon contest was attacked by Cutthroat CalipHATE hooligans of the home-grown sort, who were killed in their attempt.
Engaging as such a discussion on the nature of cartooning and free expression is, that’s not all we offer in Opus 340. In fact, it’s a whopper of a posting. We encourage you to scan the list of topics and articles that comes next in order to pick those that interest you—rather than trying the impossible, reading the whole enchilada at one sitting. So here’s what’s here, in order by department—:
NOUS R US
Summer Super Flicks
Archie Kickstarts then Kickstops
Denver Comic-Con Passes 100,000
Maus Banned in Moscow
Tom and Jerry
Roundup of the Month’s Crop
THE QUESTION OF OFFENSIVENESS PERSISTS
Trudeau’s Punching Up and Down
Charlie’s Hate Speech
Dozens of Cartoonists Describe Their “Red Lines”
Charlie’s Luz Quits
Cartoonists Draw Their “Red Lines”
Trudeau’s Response on “Meet the Press”
THE HYPOCRISIES OF PEN
Members Oppose Giving Charlie an Award for Courage
200 Sign a Petition
Others Protest the Protesters
Charlie Hebdo Jabs at PEN
The Myopia of the Writing Class
Art Spiegelman Musters the Opposition
Alison Bechdel, Neil Gaiman, Gene Luen Yang, Jules Feiffer
ANTI-MUSLIM GROUP SPONSORS
MUHAMMAD CARTOON CONTEST
Two Cutthroat CalipHATE Hooligans Killed at Cartoon Exhibit
Sponsor’s Pamela Geller Triumphant
Cartoonists React in Cartoons
PEN’s Courage Award Given
Spiegelman Comments on the Role of Cartoons
What I Think About Hate Speech and Offensive Cartoons
PAT BAGLEY REDUX
How Editooning Fares in LDS Country
AAEC Condemns Shootings at Contest Exhibit
Pamela Geller Marches On with Ads for Buses in D.C.
Iran Runs Anti-Isis Cartoon Contest
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
A Selection of Comic Strips that Amaze and Amuse
Goodbye God? by Hunt Emerson
Weird Al’s Mad
The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson, Vol. 1
Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss XXXmas in July
Unusual Mutt and Jeff (not by Bud Fisher)
Caricatures by Milton Caniff
RCH Interviews Mort Walker, Brian Walker, and Jules Feiffer
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
The Big Con Job
Tales from the Con
Daredevil Resists Donning TV’s Duds
Red One by Terry and Rachel Dodson
PEN Letters Quoted in Full
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
THE SUMMER’S OFFERINGS of superhero flicks got off to a spectacular start April 30-May 1 with the opening of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which pulled in $84.5 million, besting the $80.8 million debut of the first Avengers film in 2012, according to Disney estimates, which predict the “Ultron” movie will eventually beat the first Avengers’ all-time record of $207.4 million.
The summer’s supers schedule resumed on May 15 with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” to be followed by “Jurassic World” (June 12), “Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out” (June 19), “Terminator: Genisys” (July 1), “Ant-Man” (July 17), and “Fantastic Four” (August 7).
ARCHIE KICKSTARTS THEN KICKSTOPS
Riding the crest of a wave of fan enthusiasm about the forthcoming revamped Archie, the first issue of which is due in July, Archie Comics decided to catapult that popularity into revamps of other characters, scheduling three new titles: a new Kevin Keller-starring series from Dan Parent and J. Bone (Life With Kevin), a new Jughead-oriented series with Chip Zdarsky writing and an artist to be named later (Jughead), and a Betty and Veronica-oriented series by the creator Adam Hughes (Betty and Veronica).
Co-publisher Jon Goldwater wanted to get the new books onto the newsstands fast in order to hitch onto the success of the new Archie, written by Mark Waid and drawn in an entirely different style by Fiona Staples. Goldwater, who has overseen other revamps and new directions in his company in the last few years, was eager to continue to get attention “for the company and our creators, to celebrate our 75th anniversary and to really jazz our audience.”
But Archie Comics had just signed a deal to supply Wal-Mart and Target with digest titles, and that project sucked up financial resources. So to fund the new titles, Goldwater launched a Kickstarter campaign.
“Normally, we could put these books out over time,” Goldwater explained to Tom Spurgeon at comicsreporter.com. “We'd just have to sprinkle them out over a few years, as opposed to fast-tracking them. The Kickstarter allows us to build on the expected success of Archie No.1 in a more meaningful way while also offering some cool rewards for our fans who choose to back the Kickstarter. ... The idea is to make them happen faster because we know fans want them faster.”
Makes sense to me. And Goldwater is bubbling over with excitement and hype. The plan was to raise $350,000. The rewards for donors to Kickstarter consist, it seems, mostly of copies of the new titles when they come out. Maybe a few sweeteners, too. It all seemed a grand way to celebrate Archie’s 75th anniversary.
Problem was: crowdfunding is usually launched by entrepreneurs “in need,” not major publishing houses like Archie Comics. Goldwater assured Spurgeon that the company was not in financial difficulty. He just wanted the new books out fast in order to feed and foster the kind of fan interest that the new Archie has stimulated.
Goldwater said over and over again, his company was a bold, innovating company, and resorting to Kickstarter was just more evidence of the “new Archie”—the Archie Comics that had married Archie to both Betty and Veronica, then killed the redhead, introduced the first openly gay character, and launched a zombie title in Afterlife with Archie. Bold. Try anything once.
But as soon as the Kickstarter program started, Archie Comics was assaulted with questions and concerns from fans and retailers. The company has only just begun to get into comic book shops, and the shop owners wondered about how the Kickstarted titles would feed into their system. It looked as if they’d be cut out of the equation as the publisher began distributing titles directly to readership via the Kickstarter rewards system. And there were other concerns, on all hands.
At first, Archie responded by revamping and expanding the rewards. But that didn’t quell the concerns. Finally, it was too much. Archie Comics cancelled its Kickstarter.
The decision to pull the Kickstarter, Goldwater told comicbookresources.com, came after the Internet conversation was no longer about the books themselves. Instead of talk about the new titles and writers and artists, social media brimmed with criticism of crowdfunding products by a major publishser.
"Once that happened,” Goldwater said, “we decided it was time to stop. While we don’t mind putting ourselves under the microscope or answering questions, the creators involved didn’t deserve that level of negative attention. Though we fully expected to get funded, we felt it was time to step back."
The new books will still be published, said Goldwater. “It’ll just take a beat, and we won't be able to create this movement or wave of comics over the next year and change.”
Jughead No.1, for instance, was originally scheduled for September, and has now moved back at least a month.
"Very broadly, Jughead will come first, sooner than you'd think," Goldwater told CBR News. "Probably October. Then we'll take a pause, figure out the rollout of the other two and how to best position them in the market. It's going to take longer than we'd hoped, obviously, but these titles are top priority for us, and we want to make sure our fans get the best books possible."
Meanwhile, the company will thank the donors who jumped on board with a special thank-you gift.
DENVER COMIC-CON GETS ANOTHER BIG NUMBER
It was a heppy heppy weekend (May 23-25) at the Denver Comic-Con, which, according to BleedingCool.com, broke the 100,000 attendance mark, the number that had been anticipated due to enthusiastic advance registrations. The official announcement, made by DCC factotum Jason Jansky, pegged the final number at 101,500 (up from last year's 86,500, which, in turn, topped the previous year's attendance). In a mere four years, DCC is within striking distance of unseating the record-holder, the San Diego Con.
BleedingCool also reported that the programming was “the most extensive” he/she’d ever seen—and 400 tables in Artists Alley (which is dubbed “Artists Valley” here due to the proximity of the mountains).
Like most comic-cons in recent years that are not devoted to movies and tv shows, the DCC is part “craft show” (the artists in Artists Valley sell jewelry and t-shirts, buttons and bows, not just drawings of comic book characters) and part “costume parade.”
But the DCC is determinedly a family show and has aggressively discouraged costumes that show too much skin. Still, the real world has started invading cosplay. For the first time I realized it, I saw several alleged men dressed as women. Transgender is on the moves, kimo sabe.
MAUS BANNED IN MOSCOW
“Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus, has some very memorable cover art,” said Robert Siegel at npr.org: “It pictures a pair of mice — representing Jews — huddling beneath a cat-like caricature of Adolf Hitler. Behind the feline Hitler is a large swastika. That last element has become a problem for Maus this spring. For Russian observances of Victory Day, the holiday commemorating the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow has purged itself of swastikas. In an effort to comply, Russian bookstores cleared copies of Maus from their shelves.”
Asked what he thought of this development, Spiegelman replied: “I think it's rather well-intentioned stupidity on many levels. I'm afraid that this is a harbinger of the new arbitrariness of rules in Russia. And the result will be like what happened in the obscenity rulings that closed down a lot of theater plays. It's arbitrary rulings that make playwrights and theater owners afraid to put anything on that has an obscenity in it. ... Be very careful if you're writing about anything else we decide is the red line this week. So this is a way in which I fear that Maus has been instrumentalized to ends I don't approve of.”
This isn’t the first time Maus’s swastika cover has caused trouble, Spiegelman said. When the book was offered to a German publisher—“way back when Maus was not a known entity”—the publisher cited a German law against displaying the swastika on the covers of books. But the publisher found a loophole: the government can make an exception for “works of sserious scholarly import.”
Siegel wanted to know just how important the cover can be. Said he: “As we all know, you can't judge a book by its cover.” So what’s the big deal?
To which Spiegelman said: “Well, the whole point of what we're calling graphic novels is the melding of visual and verbal information—to sound professorial for a second. And part of that information starts with the first thing you see.”
He recalled that Pantheon didn’t want to give him the right to do the cover back 1986 when the first volume was published. “I was sputtering,” Spiegelman continued. “How can you do that? The cover's part of the book, of course. And then my friend up at Pantheon, Louise Fili, the superstar art director of Pantheon at the time, said shut up and don't worry about it. You'll do the cover. It goes through me. So I did. I got a separate paycheck on top of the relatively small advance. And when the second book came out, they insisted that I do the cover so I don't get any extra money,” he finished with a laugh.
But in Moscow, you didn’t see Maus covers for a while.
ODDS & ADDENDA
Animated cartoons on prime-time tv rank as the longest-running sitcoms: “Family Guy” racked up 250 episodes recently, saith Time, and “The Simpsons,” with 574 (and a two-year renewal in hand) will easily pass 600. The nearest competitor is the vintage 1950s live-action “Ozzie and Harriet” with 435 episodes; “Cheers” lasted for 11 seasons but achieved only 275 episodes.
Scholastic has lately secured a grant from the Herb Block Foundation to start
an editorial cartooning category in the Scholastic Awards. ... In 2013, a
musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, was
mounted at the Public Theater in New York with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and
music by Jeanine Tesori. In March 2015, “Fun Home” moved to Circle in the
Square Theatre and opened to rave reviews on April 19th.
Disney’s much acclaimed attempt at turning animated cartoons into film artistry, “Fantasia,” is 75 this year. According to John Wenzel at the Denver Post, “The 1940 film, which interprets eight different pieces of classical music through lush, hand-drawn animation, arrived as flagship character Mickey Mouse was slumping in popularity.” The inspirational heart of “Fantasia” was, then, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment in which Mickey stars: this would, it was hoped, revive the character’s standing among fans, who’d been slowly won over to Donald Duck since the quacker’s first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” in 1934. The eight-part “Fantasia” grew out of Mickey’s appearance.
But the “Fantasia” we see today is not the “Fantasia” of 1940. It has been modified, tweaked, and changed here and there as it aged. Says Wenzel: “For esxample, early versions of the segment for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ featured black centaurettes polishing the hooves of white centaurs. These scenes were removed in the late 1960s for fear of perpetuating racist stereotypes.”
MGM’S TOM AND JERRY are 75 this year, too. The first of the duo’s 163 adventures on the screen arrived February 10, 1940. Entitled “Puss Gets the Boot,” the debut cartoon features Tom and Jerry but Tom is called “Jasper” and Jerry has no name. (He was called “Jinx” around the studio, but the name isn’t used in the final film.) No one attached any special significance to the one-shot cartoon until, later that year, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Short Subjects, Cartoons. Producer Fred Quimby promptly pulled creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera off other projects and put them to work making more Tom and Jerry cartoons.
The Tom and Jerry cartoons have been de-racistized in later years: the only human in the series was “Mammy Two Shoes,” a heavy-set African American maid. Although her face is never shown (we see only her chubby body below the neck—and, of course, her shoes), by accent and the color of her hands and harms, she’s clearly identified as black. Because the mammy stereotype is now regarded as racist, her appearances in the televised cartoons have been edited out—or she has been re-animated as a slender white woman. Saith St. Wikipedia: “She was restored in the DVD releases of the cartoons, with an introduction by Whoopi Goldberg explaining the importance of African Americn representation in cartoon series, however stereotyped.”
ART SAMSON’s Born Loser is 50 this month, having debuted May 10, 1965. Since Art’s death in 1991, his son Chip has been running the misadventures of Brutus Thornapple, the hapless loser of the title.
Herewith, the Sunday anniversary strip and a daily (May 6) from the run-up week. The anniversary is being celebrated and Universal/Uclick’s website, GoComics.com, where you can enter a contest to win a “high quality” print of the strip if you’re one of the lucky contestants. You can also print out a “Born Loser” certificate, which has a blank spot for you to insert your name. Or you can print out the one that accompanies this announcement.
Here’s Chip’s account of his career as his father’s successor—:
“My career as a cartoonist began in 1977. My dad, Art Sansom, created The Born Loser in 1965 and by 1977, he was looking for an assistant so he could ease up his heavy workload, especially with the gag writing. I had started a career in the business world immediately after I graduated from college four years earlier, and by this time I had become disenchanted with that career path and was looking for something more creative. Sounds like a perfect match, right? Except I never dreamed I could be a cartoonist, because I believed I was a terrible artist. I think I was intimidated by the fact that both my mother and father were fabulous artists. There was no way I could live up to the high bar they had set, so I decided at an early age not to try. This is not to say they did anything to make me feel this way: it was all in my head.
“Believe it or not, I never took an art class in college, high school or even junior high school. In retrospect, I think if I had taken art classes, I probably wouldn’t have been all that bad and certainly would have learned many things that I would find helpful to this day. On the other hand, I was an English major in college and had loved creative writing from an early age, so I was confident I could help my dad out with the writing on the strip. I started by submitting a series of gags to him, as had multiple other professional writers. They were all talented, but they didn’t know The Born Loser like I did. I grew up watching my dad create the strip in his studio in our home. I knew it so well, my gags worked better for the strip than those of the other writers.
“Dad offered to hire me as an apprentice and teach me the art side of things while I was writing gags for him. I accepted under the condition that I work for free on a trial basis for one year, while still working my other job. I passed the audition to the satisfaction of both of us and started my official apprenticeship one year later.
“Dad taught me every aspect of producing the comic strip exactly as he did. The artwork progressed slowly but surely. I found that even though I was unable to quickly draw the characters, my eye was trained to know what they should look like and I would keep working on my drawings until they passed my eye test. By the time Dad passed away in 1991, I was able to take over the complete production of The Born Loser by myself. I still felt I wasn’t a great artist, but I believed I could produce The Born Loser better than any other living person. I have made a conscious effort to continue the comic strip in the style Dad taught me. As a tribute to him, I still sign both of our names to every strip.”
Chip said that “at a very young age,” he was a fan of Dennis the Menace. Maybe that accounts for Hurrican Hattie, the juvenile terror of The Born Loser. Chip was never into comic book superheroes, but when he discovered Carl Barks, everything else took a back seat.
Fascinating Footnit. Much of the news retailed in the foregoing segment is culled from articles eventually indexed at rpi.edu/~bulloj/comxbib.html, the Comics Research Bibliography, maintained by Michael Rhode and John Bullough, which covers comic books, comic strips, animation, caricature, cartoons, bandes dessinees and related topics. It also provides links to numerous other sites that delve deeply into cartooning topics. For even more comics news, consult these four other sites: Mark Evanier’s povonline.com, Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com, Tom Spurgeon’s comicsreporter.com, and Michael Cavna at voices.washingtonpost.com./comic-riffs . For delving into the history of our beloved medium, you can’t go wrong by visiting Allan Holtz’s strippersguide.blogspot.com, where Allan regularly posts rare findings from his forays into the vast reaches of newspaper microfilm files hither and yon.
QUOTES AND MOTS
“I don’t judge people based on color, race, religion, sexuality, gender, ability or size. I base my judgement on whether or not they’re an asshole.”—A. Nonymous
“The rich are not the job creators. The job creators are the vast middle class and everyone aspiring to join them, whose money businesses need in order to justify expanding and hiring.”—Ex-Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich
“If Obama came forward with a cure for cancer, they [the everlasting GOP] would oppose it.” —Joseph Cirincion in The Washington Spectator
The Mock in Democracy
STACKED UP WITH BOOK REVIEWS last time, we skipped over this department in order to finish a posting within readable range. I’m not sure, upon reflection, that we accomplished the latter goal, but we’re back with Editoonery again this time anyhow. ... To See Some of the Best Editoons of the Past Month and to Peruse the Argument over Free Expression and Offensiveness in the Wake of Garry Trudeau’s Indictment of Charlie Hebdo, Not to Mention Reviews of Books and Funnybooks and Numerous Other Fascinating Tidbits of Cartooning History and Lore— and More, Much More—Click Here if you are a member. If not...
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